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Would you use someone else's photos of product you designed

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  • Would you use someone else's photos of product you designed

    Hi everyone,

    I have been trying to get some guidance all over the internet, and I can't find anything remotely along the lines of my question, so really hoping this community can weigh in!

    I am working on my portfolio, and while I'm ok with the paper part of it, I have never had an online one (I've had my current job for nearly 15 years, and never thought to keep up with the times before ARGH!).
    I have done a ton of product design that was mass manufactured and sold, both in stores and on my company's catalog. I have my design/production files of various products, but they don't look nearly as nice as the professionally photographed photos of real product.

    I did not take the photos, nor did I style the shots, I just designed the stuff that is being showcased.

    Is it ok for me to use such photos?
    I am planning on adding my current company's copyright line, is that a thing I should do?
    Is there a good place I can reference for these kind of questions?

    Very open to any and all suggestions and opinions.

  • #2
    Originally posted by backrowgirl View Post
    Is there a good place I can reference for these kind of questions?
    A copyright attorney would certainly have opinions, but they cost a whole bunch of money.

    I'm no attorney, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

    Most everything from photos to written words are copyrighted, and if you're not sure, assume that it is. There's also that fuzzy gray area of fair use where the use of a copyrighted work wouldn't be considered an infringement. It's always best to get written permission from copyright owners, though, just in case.

    I'm not suggesting that you do what I do, but here's my philosophy with my own online portfolio. It's worked without a hitch since the mid-90s, if that means anything.

    I'm a designer, and most designers don't shoot their own photos, so if I have, say, a magazine layout in my portfolio, I see no particular reason to go out of my way to shout out to everyone viewing the portfolio that I didn't shoot the photos in the layout since it's sort of implied. I will, however, credit the photographers in an out-of-the-way corner of the page. I likely wouldn't bother to ask the magazine if it was OK for me to show a representation of what I designed since: (1) It's probably a fair, non-infringing use of the imagery unless, of course, the contract or employment agreement stipulated otherwise; (2) I typically specifically mention in my contract that I retain usage rights for self-promotion; (3) Unless I was an employee of the magazine, I might very well still own the copyright anyway unless I signed it over to them.

    In your specific situation, if I thought there was any chance that a viewer would assume that I, the designer of what was shot, was also the shooter of the photos, I'd almost certainly write out, in small type, at the bottom of the page something to the effect of, "Product photos by Jane Doe Photography." I'd also make sure in the caption or accompanying text to make clear that the product designs in the photos were my work. As for adding your current company's copyright line, well, you might want to just ask them if you think it's necessary.

    Much the same subject came up on the forum a couple of years ago and got a variety of opinions. Here's the link:
    Last edited by B; 09-02-2017, 07:42 PM.


    • backrowgirl
      backrowgirl commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the advice and the link - though I don't know if my situation would be similar to the one in the post you've linked to.
      I don't put anything online especially that hasn't hit the shelves or at least is featured in the catalog, which covers my particular NDA's, but ugh, the copyright laws are so messy and outdated, and it doesn't look like they might get straightened out any time soon. My current company's lawyer has so many things to say about copyright laws and the internet ^_^

      Anyway, definitely following your recommendations, they seem like a really good framework, thank you again!

    • B
      B commented
      Editing a comment
      It's not that the original poster's situation in the other thread is similar to yours, it's that the subsequent discussion of copyright and fair use issues have relevance to your situation.

  • #3
    There's somewhat of a gray area too on any stock images you may have used in the piece you are putting in your online portfolio. Especially if you only obtained print rights only, and if the image is displayed ''prominently'' online. Prominently means likely to appear in a google image search if the stock image is searched. I don't know how the larger stock places are doing it, but they keep pretty close tabs on imagery that appears online without a license.


    • #4
      Hi Backrowgirl and welcome to GDF.

      We ask all new members to read very important links here and here. These explain the rules, how the forum runs and a few inside jokes. No, you haven't done anything wrong, we ask every new member to read them. Your first few posts will be moderated, so don't panic if they don't show up immediately. Enjoy your stay.
      Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.


      • #5
        We shouldn't use someones photograph without permission. If you know who is the owner then you should first ask permission from him. In this way we respect each-other's work. I will not happy if you are using my photos without my permission. At least i deserve it.


        • #6
          I'm not a lawyer, but I'm friends with a few. It has always been impressed upon me that good faith gets you a long ways. If you know the photographer, credit them. If you don't know the photographer, that's ok. Don't try to pass off someone else's work as your own and you'll be fine. Don't sell the photos, obviously.

          Your portfolio is your portfolio. 99/100 times you will not have an issue. 1/100 times you'll get a letter telling you to take something down or that you don't have permission to display it. In those instances, just say you're sorry and take it down.






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